Friday, November 03, 2006

An honest and decent socialist

Peter Fryer has died exactly fifty years after his finest hour. He was the British Communist journalist who was dispatched by the British Communist Party (CPGB) with the brief, from the editor of the Daily Worker (forerunner of today's Morning Star), to denounce the Hungarian workers' revolution as a fascist coup. Fryer arrived in Budapest, and immediately saw that what was happening was a workers' revolution against totalitarianism: any self-respecting socialist had to support it.

But the Stalinist hacks of the British CP , like Harry Pollitt (thug) and Raj Palme Dutt (intellectually corrupt"intellectual"), even after Kruschev's speech about the crimes of Stalin, were not prepared for an honest man who would report what he saw in Hungary. Seeing a genuine workers' revolution against an anti-working class, totalitarian regime, Fryer dispatched reports describing what he had seen. The CPGB was appalled (not about Russian brutality in Hungary, but by Fryer's honesty) and the Daily Worker suppressed his reports.

Fryer was eventually expelled from the CPGB (he didn't "leave in disgust" as I erroneously stated in an earlier contribution to this site), and joined Gerry Healy's Trotskyist 'Socialist Labour League'. About a quarter of the British CP's 33, 000 membership either left or were expelled, as a result of Hungary. Bruce Robinson, in the present issue of the AWL's paper Solidarity, comments:

"Even before Hungary the CPGB faced a crisis. By July (1956), Edward Thompson and John Saville had set up a duplicated journal called The Reasoner in defiance of Party rules and there was widespread dissatisfaction with Party democracy. When it came to Hungary, the CPGB simply echoed the Soviet line justifying te invasion under the headline "New Hungarian Anti-Fascist Government in Action - Soviet Troops called in to Stop White Terror", while (The Daily Worker) refused reports of their own Budapest correspondent, Peter Fryer".

Fryer remained with what he regarded as the Trotskyist movement for the rest of his life, although he had to put up with a second round of political abuse- this time from the megalomaniac and rapist Gerry Healy: but Fryer stayed in the Healy movement, and survived its evil and corrupt founder. His book Hungarian Tragedy remains his great contribution to working class struggle. But I am pleased to note that he was also an accomplished jazz and blues piano player, and wrote a book, Staying Power (which I've not read, but will), about the black presence in Britain after World War Two. Hats off to a great comrade!


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